An Ancient Village Well-known for its Unique Traditional Fabric
Tenganan or Tenganan Pegringsingan is a very old village in the regency of Karangasem, Bali island, Indonesia. Before the 1970s it was recognized by anthropologists as one of the most segregated societies of the Indonesian archipelago. It is also known as one of The Bali Aga villages. Bali Aga is a Balinese term that refers to ancient villages and early inhabitants of Bali island.
Very fast changes have occurred in the village since the 1970s, such as the development of local communications by the central government, the opening up to tourism, the breaking of the endothermic regulations. Tourists are interested in Tenganan because of its unique Bali Aga culture that still supports the original traditions, ceremonies and rules of ancient Balinese, and its unique village layout and architecture. It is also well-known for its Gamelan Selunding music and Geringsing garments.
Houses in Tenganan Pegringsingan village are built on either side of the north to the south housing cluster with their doors opening on to it. The entrances of the houses are narrow, only enabling one person to enter or leave at any one time. People enter the village through the gate on the southern end. On either side of the entrance there are two small shrines. Across from these is the long Balé Agung, where the administrative decisions for the village are discussed and decided. Next to that is the drum tower called “Kulkul”. The Kulkul is beaten 21 times every morning to start the day. Going up to the center there is a series of communal pavilions called “Balé Banjar” intended for formal and informal meetings and ceremonial gatherings. At the northern end is the village temple called “Pura Puseh”, which means the temple of origin.
As it is mentioned above, the people of Tenganan Pegringsingan are called Bali Aga—the original Balinese. They are descendants of the pre-Majapahit kingdom of Pejeng. There are very strict regulations as to who are allowed to live in the village. Only those who were born in the village can stay in the village and become full members of the community. There are also regulations regarding marriage. Anyone who marries a person from outside of the village has to leave. A strict rules regarding marriages among the kin groups have steered the people of Tenganan through the genetic dangers of intermarriage although with increasing contact with the outside world these rules have relaxed somewhat.
Many of the life-cycle rituals of the Tenganan people are similar to those of the Balinese generally, but have slight differences. Some ceremonies are surely unique. One of the distinguishing features is the use of Geringsing fabric. Based on its magical quality, Geringsing is not only capable of keeping impurities and danger out of the village, but also a shield that protect humans from evil influences during ritual ceremonies. The people of Tenganan receive their first Geringsing at the hair cutting ritual. His hair is cut and placed in a basket which is then placed on a folded Geringsing on “Balé Tengah”, on which they are believed to both enter and leave the world. In the ceremony that aknowledges a boy or girl to the youth association of the village, they are carried in a Geringsing fabric on their father’s right shoulder. In the concluding ceremony of “teruna nyoma” which is the initiation ceremony, the candidates wear a Geringsing and put on a “keris” (a traditional metal weapon). In a tooth filing ceremony called “metatah”, an essential rite of passage for all Balinese Hindu, the participants’ pillow is covered by Geringsing. After death the genitals of the deceased are covered by a Geringsing hip sash. These fabric may not be used again and so are usually are sold. In the purification of the soul ceremony called “muhun”, the dead person’s presence, which is symbolized by an inscribed palm leaf, is also set in a Geringsing. In the wedding ceremony, the groom invites his in-laws to visit his parents’ home where the couple, dressed in glorious Geringsing outfit.